The Road to 2016: Carly Fiorina

The Road to 2016: Carly Fiorina

Quick Facts:

Former CEO of HP from 1999-2005.

Was forced out of that position because of her inability to cooperate with the board of directors

Lost a race for Senate in California in 2010

Worked closely with John McCain’s presidential campaign

Breast cancer survivor

Keys to the Party:

One of the only females actively courting a run for the presidency

Demonstrated strength and resilience when overseeing the hostile merger of HP and Compaq despite harsh and lasting criticism against her leadership

Defended Sarah Palin in 2008 against media attacks that Fiorina labeled as sexist and has taken a strong stand against the perceived double-standard of “progressives” who promote a feminist agenda but then mock and ridicule successful conservative women

Was one of the most powerful CEOs in the country while at HP

Regularly in a top tier list of the most powerful Republican women in America

Keys to the Press:

Ms. Fiorina has been largely criticized as ineffective in her time as CEO of HP

Poorly executed Senate campaign and large amounts of campaign debt have been Fiorina’s only foray into running for office herself

Lost by ten percentage points to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer


Whether Republicans like it or not, the 2016 narrative looks to be defined by the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Even in the primary season, this will require Republican candidates to run with both their opponents and Clinton in mind. To this end, Ms. Fiorina, the only Republican woman who has actively courted the 2016 spotlight, has a powerful podium from which to make the case against the characterization that Republicans are fighting a war on women.

Beyond just being able to have a potential debate with Hillary Clinton regarding the role of women in politics, Ms. Fiorina, has run a major corporation. Ms. Fiorina’s business credentials far surpass any of the other potential GOP candidates. Thus, Ms. Fiorina can put the weight of significant experience behind any economic propositions.


The downsides of Ms. Fiorina’s candidacy are patent. Not only has Ms. Fiorina never held elective office, but she was defeated handily the only time she attempted to run. While this should not be an automatic disqualifier for the presidency, Ms. Fiorina’s poorly run Senate campaign accrued significant debt and produced very few results. Moreover, Ms. Fiorina’s time as CEO of HP has been roundly criticized as being ineffective.

Though she was a CEO of a major multinational company, especially in a time of instability around the world, it is unclear what, if any, foreign policy experience Ms. Fiorina would bring to the table.


Odds of Running:


There is a significant opening in the Party for strong female voices to make themselves heard. The advent of the candidacy of Hillary Clinton enhances the need for the Republican Party to seek out and embrace women who echo the Party’s message and who can effectively combat the presumption that women will support Hillary just because of her gender.

Learning from the mistakes and missteps of the disastrous vice-presidential run by Sarah Palin in 2008, Republican women have learned that the media is not going to be an ally and will quickly embrace every foible a conservative woman will make.

Republican and conservative women regularly suffer brutally at the hands, ironically, of “feminists” on the left who are quick to rip apart women on the right for any perceived fault or failing. For this reason, Republican women are forced to plot a nearly impossible course between being labeled “dumb” or an “air-head” and being seen as overly “masculine.” In recent Ms. Fiorina speeches has made this damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t political reality the center of her criticism of Hillary Clinton and the leftist media.

Because of the vacancy on the right of serious women making forays into the 2016 field, Ms. Fiorina’s active courting of a run may catch a degree of steam and put her into a position allowing her a spot in the GOP primary horse race.

Odds of Winning the Nomination:


The likely GOP mantra of the 2016 season will be experience. The overarching criticism of President Obama was that his lack of experience in national office before he assumed the presidency contributed to his failed policies and ideological governance. Moreover, because Hillary Clinton will be running from a position of significant experience inside Washington as first lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, her Republican opponent will have to show that he or she is capable of showing an impressive governing resume.

Ms. Fiorina’s business past, once one looks just below the surface, is far rockier than merely having the title of CEO. Numerous articles, fairly or unfairly, have painted Ms. Fiorina as being a poor steward of HP. While Ms. Fiorina could likely rebut this criticism given time, this tainted experience without any other remarkable political accomplishments will prevent Ms. Fiorina from moving out of the GOP primaries.

Odds of a Cabinet Position:


While Ms. Fiorina may not fit with the model of GOP candidates vying for the top of the ticket, that should not discount her from any other offices in Washington. Ms. Fiorina’s recent speeches have shown her to be adept at criticizing Hillary Clinton and being an effective voice for Republican women. While it is still far too early in the primary season to think of who may be in the running for a spot as vice-president, Ms. Fiorina may have an interesting case to make to be the Republican number two. Early response to such a position may be to draw a comparison between Ms. Fiorina and Sarah Palin. This could very likely benefit Ms. Fiorina who will be able to show that she is a better speaker and solidly grounded than the former Alaska governor.

Ms. Fiorina may also be on a short list of potential cabinet secretaries.

Bottom Line:

Carly Fiorina has staked out a position that can rally conservative and Republican women. The Party needs voices that can effectively define for female voters why Hillary Clinton should not be their default vote. However, Ms. Fiorina’s disappointing showing while running for the Senate as well as the nagging criticism of her time as CEO of HP will prevent her from taking the top spot in the race for the White House.

GovMatt’s Opinion: The reason why I put Carly Fiorina in the “Road to 2016” series and not in the “Sideshow” is because Ms. Fiorina looks to be the most serious female Republican candidate courting a run in 2016. Though her resume for the job is thin, her voice on women’s issues in the Party comes at a time when such ideas are desperately needed for the Party to stay relevant for female voters. Moreover, these ideas and articulations of conservative womanhood are so much more effectively conveyed by someone like Ms. Fiorina, who has succeeded in business, than by others in the Party, or commentators, who come off as unsympathetic. However, despite the necessity of Ms. Fiorina’s continued presence in the Party, her credentials do not match what the Party needs in its Presidential candidate in 2016.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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1 Response

  1. Martin Cooper says:

    If she’s as tough as she talks, I think she will make a great candidate.

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